A constant risk

Do you realize that one out of every four accidents happens due to driver distraction? You've surely seen examples of it before. A driver looks down at his cellphone and rear-ends another car at a stop light, never seeing the light or the other stopped car. A driver sings along with the music, merges without checking the mirrors, and sideswipes another car on the interstate. A driver drops a hamburger or a cup of coffee, slams on the brakes instinctively, and causes a three-car pile-up.

It happens all the time. Some call distracted driving the new drunk driving. In some ways, it's even worse. You can't avoid it. Most DUI accidents occur at night, around holidays and on the weekends. Distracted driving happens all day, every day. It happens when you take your kids to school, when you're making an evening run to the grocery store and when you commute to and from work.

Here are 10 of the top reasons why it happens:

  1. Being lost in thought. Woolgathering causes 62 percent of distracted driving accidents, and no laws can eliminate the risk.
  2. Cellphone usage. This accounts for another 12 percent of distracted driving collisions. People know the risks, but they take them anyway.
  3. Outside distractions. These include issues like talking to someone outside of the car or gawking at another car accident or even reading a highway billboard.
  4. Passengers. Turning to talk to a person in the back seat is particularly dangerous. Parents often get distracted when they have their kids in the car.
  5. Reaching for something. A driver drops his or her cellphone and tries to pick it up from under the seat, for instance.
  6. Eating and drinking. Grabbing a bite to eat can increase the odds that someone gets in a wreck before arriving at their destination. Drinking non-alcoholic beverages, like a morning cup of coffee, also falls into this category.
  7. Adjusting controls. Examples include turning down the radio or turning on the heat or AC.
  8. Using built-in devices. For instance, a driver forgets to put on his or her seat belt, sees a police officer, and then crashes while trying to turn and reach for the belt.
  9. Unexpected things inside the car. Accidents have happened after spiders drop down onto people's laps or when bees fly in an open window.
  10. Smoking. Cigarette use in the car leads to about 1 percent of all distracted driving accidents.

Distractions are everywhere on the highway. From the bored driver who starts thinking about what to have for dinner to the teen who cannot stay off of a cellphone to the parent who has screaming children in the back seat, everyone is a risk. That's why it is so important for those who get hit by distracted drivers to know their legal rights.

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